Last Updated: December 8, 2022

Joint Custody in Divorce
If you are granted joint custody in your divorce, this means that both parents will have decision making abilities as to how the children are raised.

If you love your children and want what’s best for them, you deserve to get joint custody in divorce. Joint custody, which involves parents sharing physical and/or legal custody of their children, has become the most popular arrangement for divorcing parents. In fact, most judges prefer to force parents in a joint custody arrangement during divorce unless serious issues arise.

Rather than engaging in a custody battle in divorce, many parents are agreeing to share custody of their children so both can play roles in upbringing. If this sounds like an appealing option, a family law attorney can provide assistance. And any one of the experienced family law attorneys that you will speak to here (free consultation!) can help you get joint custody during your divorce.

What Exactly is Joint Custody in Divorce Anyways?

Physical custody, (also known as residential custody), is the right to live with the child and many divorced parents are now sharing physical custody of their children. The right to make decisions about the life of the child is called legal custody and in joint legal custody arrangements, parents share in this decision-making. This allows both adults to have a say in how their children are raised. If you are granted joint custody in your divorce, this means that both parents will have decision making abilities as to how the children are raised. Joint custody greatly reduces the likelihood that the divorce will have a negative impact on the children.

Joint Custody in Divorce: How Is It Decided?

Whether joint custody is awarded to both parents or even sole custody, the parties will need to present facts and information to the judge for a custody determination to be made. Family law courts base their custody decisions on what is know as the “best interests of the child” standard. This standard, although slightly different from state-to-state, is used in all 50-states. Numerous factors are examined to determine the best possible custody and parenting time arrangement for the child.

The best interests of the child standard involve a number of factors, but the most common are the following:

  • Whether a prior agreement existed between the parties
    • This might be what the parents were doing for the past 6-months, or longer, not necessarily anything written down
  • The mental and physical health of the parents (and the child)
    • If one parent has mental or physical impairments and is unable to care for the child, this will play a role in determining custody / allocation of parental responsibilities
  • The home environment of both parents
    • This primarily means ‘stability’ when it comes to living arrangements. Is there a stable home for the child, or does one parent move every 6-months or stay at various friends and relatives’ houses? Also, important here is that the home has a adequate space, furniture, food in the fridge, and is in a good neighborhood.
  • The relationship between child and parent
    • Does one parent handle almost all of the daily child rearing responsibilities, or is it somewhat shared? Even if one parent is stay at home while the other works, does the working parent assist with tucking into bed, making meals, and being active in the day-to-day issues with the child?
  • Whether each parent will help facilitate a relationship with the other parent
    • When it comes to joint custody, judges want to see both parents exhibit a willingness to help foster a healthy relationship between he child and the other parent. If the court sees one parent constantly interfering in this, joint custody won’t work.
  • Domestic violence
    • Has there been domestic violence against one parent, especially in front of the child? Has the child been abused?

These factors, and more, play a role in deciding whether joint custody should be awarded to both parents. The court views these factors as they apply to each parent as a whole.

Custody Awarded Before Divorce Completed

While the vast majority of judges prefer to handle all aspects of a divorce at one time, sometimes temporary orders need to be put in place. Other times, an agreement on custody terms can be negotiated before the financial aspects of a divorce are finalized. Courts can award joint custody in divorce before the divorce paperwork is finalized. In fact, custody may be granted whenever two parents do not reside together. Depending on the best interest factors highlighted above, the judge may grant joint physical custody, joint legal custody, or both.

Judges Like Joint Custody in Divorce

Judges don’t like a child’s life to be turned upside down. Family law courts intentionally attempt to get both parents to realize and accept that it is normally best for both parents to be very involved in a child’s life. For this reason, family law judges favor awarding joint custody to the parents.

Since family law courts view it as detrimental to the children to keep one parent away from the child, most courts will not grant sole custody in divorce unless one parent is either deemed unfit or the residential parent claims that they do not get along with the other parent (this is usually extreme). For example, if one parent is uncooperative, dependent on drugs or alcohol, or has a history of abuse, the other parent may be awarded sole custody. But courts often grant sole custody for much less than this – sometimes they do so if the parties simply disagree on a few small issues! In most other situations, parents share physical custody of their children and arrange parenting schedules around their work and other commitments.

Primary Physical Custody Still is Joint Custody

Even if one parent is granted primary physical custody of the children, the other parent is likely to receive generous visitation rights and share legal custody (also known as “decision making” or “allocation of parental responsibilities”). This requires the parents to work out a visitation schedule and come to agreement on major issues regarding the welfare and upbringing of the children. The final schedule would be put into a formal parenting plan (also called a “custody judgment” or “allocation judgment”) and it would be signed and entered by the judge.

Next Steps

Getting joint custody in divorce does not necessarily require going to court in all states. With the help of mediators, counselors, or attorneys, parents can decide on custody arrangements themselves. Some states require divorcing parents to use mediation to resolve a custody fight during divorce. If parents cannot agree, a court will make the custody decision by following a procedure that involves standard considerations and adherence to several common principles – namely, the best interest of the children. Don’t let yourself become a victim and lose the chance to get joint custody during your divorce, start setting up a positive case for yourself right away by making positive life decisions and of course, seeking the right legal help from an experienced divorce attorney with a free consultation!

About The Author

1 thought on “Divorce Lawyers Help You Get Joint Custody in Divorce”

  1. I like that you talked about how a judge can grant child custody before the divorce is actually finalized. My sister wants to get a divorce this month so that she can get out of a failed marriage. She wants to make sure she gets custody, so she needs to find a good lawyer that can help her.

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